Scripted Langauge – Why bother?

“The words you use are as powerful as the message you are trying to convey – do you always know what to say when under stress?”

Bill Rogers

I started my current post at the end of April this year. I left the safety of the PRU that I had worked at for the last 4 years to pick up my dicey relationship with mainstream. Last time we broke up, we ended terribly and I was convinced that I would not return. I loved working in a PRU. Children with EBD issues are some of the most challenging and rewarding people who I have been fortunate to work with and it was down to them why I have managed to convince myself that I need to acquaint  myself with my former life – a classroom teacher.

I was asked to immediately re-write the schools behaviour policy, in fact, I was asked to rewrite it over the half term before I started. I did it, not knowing the cohort of staff, children and their strengths and issues – it was done in a top down manner. The head that I work for is inspirational and after a series of poor HMI visits and becoming a sponsored academy, she was appointed. She is driven and looking back now, the fact she asked me to re-write it so early into my tenure is not surprising. The issue is… how would the rest of the staff see it? The staff haven’t seen the majority of it yet to be fair because I was asked to re-write it and then try it out in the year group where I was appointed. The chaps that worked in the other 2 classes are very willing so it did not take a lot to convince them. The rest of the staff…. I’m not so sure. The one thing that I did tempt them with was scripted language.

I came from a class of 7 children and I have ended up in a school with 21 classes (including FS2) and the first obstacle that I have hit is consistency. There are many types of adult in the school I work at. There are experienced ones, NQT’s, staff who have worked at the same school for decades, some who want to change, some who will find it hard to change and so on. In many walks of life, mainstream included, a diverse workforce is a benefit. The experiences they offer, the different expertise areas they have however in terms of supporting and promoting consistency, sadly, the diversity is detrimental. I soon found that the first port of call was to test the water with scripted langauge. I stood there with a sea of faces looking at me and introduced the term assuming that they already had some prior knowledge; they did not. I rolled it back.

What is scripted language?

These are the scripts that I offered our staff to help them to work consistently.

Scripted language is a method that allows staff to respond to children in a way that becomes predictable to the child. If a child is able to predict and be familiar with the response that they will receive from the staff, they will be much more likely to accept it. Scripted language is beneficial when children respond poorly to instructions because it leaves little room for them to argue with the adults. It also helps the adults to keep calm and keep control of their own emotions. When staff become emotionally involved (like frustrated with the child) they make poor decisions, they speak too much and present poor body language or voice control. Staff will use the scripts in a low, non-intrusive voice. If the children do not respond, the script is repeatedly applied. If the staff feel they need to say anything, they just need to say the script.


Notes for the script Example of script
1. First ….2. Then …

(repeat as 1 and 2 as necessary)

Children may be refusing to follow simple instructions or may simply be digging their heels in and defying anything you say. This script works best when you know what the child wants… even if what they want is a few instructions away.Once the script is given, if you need to speak to the child again, you repeat the script. You may give them a little take-up time (to think about it) in between delivering script but this simple script is effective because the child cannot engage you in any other conversation. 1. First sit on the chair2. Then do your work

1. First pick up your pen

2. Then begin to write

1. First go to your seat

2. Then go to playtime

1. CHILD, you are in amber/red because…2. To be in green you need to…

(once you have said 1 and 2, you may need to repeat number 2)

Scripted language should ALWAYS be used with traffic lights, even if you do not physically move the children on the lights. Start by saying the child’s name and stating the behaviour that is not acceptable. As soon as you have said step one, highlight your behaviour expectations by telling them what they need to do to be in green. The way forward for them means that your expectations are explicit and they do not need to guess what to do. If they still refuse, it is a clear behaviour choice and you might sanction. You might say (if the script is not prompting a change in behaviour and you have said it repeatedly) “CHILD, if you do not get into green by doing…. in the next X minutes/seconds then there will be a consequence for your poor behaviour”Traffic lights will not work effectively unless they are scaffolded in this way. Traffic lights are such a powerful tool of communication to the child and the script helps them to understand and gives you an element of control. 1. James, you are in amber because you are shouting out.2. To be in green you need to work quietly for the next minute

1. James, you are in amber because you are out of your seat

2. To be in green, sit in your seat

1. CHILDS NAME2. I can see there is a problem

3. I’m here to help you

4. You talk to me, I will listen

5. Come with me and I will listen

(Say 1-4, and then if there is a need to repeat, repeat steps 3 and 4)

(When they decide to engage you, offer them the way out with step 5)

This script is the most difficult to remember but is particularly useful when you have a child who is in crisis, near crisis or has withdrawn themselves and they are not responding to verbal communication.This script starts by using their name (1) and simply stating that you can see there is a problem (2) is factual and will not upset the child because it is a fact. This is instead of saying something like “I can sort this out for you” because if a family member died last night, you can’t.

Telling them you are here to help is reaffirming your supportive role towards them. The most pivotal step is step 4. Repeating “You talk to me, I will listen” is extremely effective because at some point, they will probably start to talk/have a go at someone/moan about their problem and when they do, that is when step 5 comes into play because they will follow more than likely comply with your next request.

1. John

2. I can see there is a problem

3. I’m here to help you

4. You talk to me, I will listen

5. Come with me and I will listen

If the staff could remember three simple scripts, I knew that we would work some way to working consistently. If I could convince them that when the child is refusing to follow instructions or telling them to f*** off, that they would no longer have to think about what to say and just remember the script, maybe they would do it. This training happened at the end of June and the Bill Rogers quote sums up nicely, one major reason, one bargaining chip to the staff, why they should use scripted language. If I could appeal to them individually and more people bought into it, then surely this would bread consistency?!? Like I said, it was done with a month to go and early feedback has been extremely positive and even I can see an initial shift in ethos at the school but the proof will be if it continues to grow… to manifest itself and the staff continue to use it throughout the Autumn term and into next year. If this happens, there could truly be a seismic shift in our school and that is what I am aiming for!


Posted on August 1, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on educatingthoughts and commented:
    Will be trying this next year with a few individuals! Reblogged


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